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UK falls silent in remembrance on VE Day 75th anniversary

Friday marks 75 years since the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s surrender.

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Sergeant David Beveridge fires a gun salute from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle, to mark the start of the two-minute silence on the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Jane Barlow/PA)

Sergeant David Beveridge fires a gun salute from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle, to mark the start of the two-minute silence on the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Jane Barlow/PA)

Sergeant David Beveridge fires a gun salute from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle, to mark the start of the two-minute silence on the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Jane Barlow/PA)

The UK has fallen silent to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day as the country was urged to draw on the “same spirit of national endeavour” during the coronavirus crisis.

Millions across the country paused at 11am on Friday to remember those who served in the Second World War, and the price so many paid for freedom.

The poignant moment was led by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who each laid a wreath at a memorial near Balmoral.

Charles wore Highland Day Dress – a Hunting Stewart kilt with a Gordon Highlanders tie and lapel badge – as well as wearing medals and neck order.

The Duchess of Cornwall placed spring flowers on the memorial, which were picked personally by Her Royal Highness from the garden at Birkhall.

Charles’ handwritten message with his floral tribute read: “In everlasting remembrance”, while Camilla left a note with her bouquet in memory of her father Major Bruce Shand, who served with the 12th Lancers during the war.

The duchess, who wore her 4 Rifles dress, because she is Royal Colonel of the regiment, and her 12th Royal Lancers regimental brooch, wrote: “In memory of my darling father and all the officers and men of the XII Lancers who fought so bravely to give us peace.”

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Lou Myers, 92, observes two minutes’ silence at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall (PA)

Lou Myers, 92, observes two minutes’ silence at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall (PA)

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Lou Myers, 92, observes two minutes’ silence at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall (PA)

Veterans and members of the public, unable to gather by their local war memorials as normal, quietly reflected in their own homes.

Friday marks 75 years since the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s surrender.

And while the Covid-19 lockdown makes huge gatherings like those of 1945 impossible, commemorations are taking place at home and online across the UK.

The RAF staged flypasts across the country, with the Red Arrows soaring through the sky above Buckingham Palace and the London Eye and Typhoon fighter jets flying over Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

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The Royal Air Force Red Arrows flying over Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament (SAC Hannah Smoker/Ministry of Defence/PA)

The Royal Air Force Red Arrows flying over Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament (SAC Hannah Smoker/Ministry of Defence/PA)

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The Royal Air Force Red Arrows flying over Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament (SAC Hannah Smoker/Ministry of Defence/PA)

The anniversary will also be marked with virtual street parties and a national sing-a-long to Dame Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again.

In a special message broadcast on the Royal British Legion’s livestream on Friday morning, Dame Vera gave her thanks to the wartime generation.

The message, read by actress Lesley Sharp, said: “As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, what a perfect opportunity for me to say thank you to everyone who did their bit to help us fight for freedom.

“Not only our wonderful air force, navy and army, but all the munitions workers in factories, those who broke the codes, the land girls and everyone else in the country.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside Downing Street in London, to mark the anniversary (Jon Bond/The Sun/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside Downing Street in London, to mark the anniversary (Jon Bond/The Sun/PA)

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside Downing Street in London, to mark the anniversary (Jon Bond/The Sun/PA)

In a letter to veterans, the Prime Minister assured them that despite the ongoing lockdown, their efforts to defeat a “ruthless enemy” would not be forgotten.

Boris Johnson said: “On this anniversary, we are engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus which demands the same spirit of national endeavour that you exemplified 75 years ago.

“We cannot pay our tribute with the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past; your loved ones may be unable to visit in person,” he said in the letter.

“But please allow us, your proud compatriots, to be the first to offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered.”

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Royal British Legion branch chairman, Eric Howden, 75, lowers his standard in respect during a two-minute silence in Redcar, North Yorkshire (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Royal British Legion branch chairman, Eric Howden, 75, lowers his standard in respect during a two-minute silence in Redcar, North Yorkshire (Owen Humphreys/PA)

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Royal British Legion branch chairman, Eric Howden, 75, lowers his standard in respect during a two-minute silence in Redcar, North Yorkshire (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The Prime Minister also held a Zoom call with 102-year-old Second World War veteran Ernie Horsfall, one of the UK’s oldest surviving servicemen.

Mr Johnson told him he was “awesome” and a “credit to his generation” during the call, his official spokesman told reporters during a briefing.

Russian president Vladimir Putin sent a message to the Prime Minister on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

In his message to Boris Johnson, Mr Putin said: “The Great Victory was a pivotal event of the 20th century with enduring significance for the fate of all humankind. It was achieved thanks to the joint efforts of the Soviet Union and the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition. That invaluable experience is no less needed today.”

The Kremlin said he also expressed confidence that the memory of the two nations’ “brotherhood-in-arms” would lead to “constructive” Russian-British dialogue and co-operation.

General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, told how long-planned ways to celebrate the anniversary had to be adapted due to coronavirus.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We will do what we can to commemorate it visibly.

“But of course it will be different and I think that’s tough for the veterans and all of those who have lived through the war because they would like to see a parade and they would like to be involved in that.

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The residents of Cambrian Road in Chester dress up in 1945 clothing and have a social distancing tea party (Peter Byrne/PA)

The residents of Cambrian Road in Chester dress up in 1945 clothing and have a social distancing tea party (Peter Byrne/PA)

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The residents of Cambrian Road in Chester dress up in 1945 clothing and have a social distancing tea party (Peter Byrne/PA)

“So I think we should spare a thought for them having to commemorate and celebrate at home.”

Later on Friday a Spitfire flypast is planned for a number of locations in the South East, including a veterans’ care home in Worthing, West Sussex and Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead.

Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than £32 million for the NHS in April, will share his memories of wartime in an ITV documentary called Captain Tom’s War, which airs at 8pm.

In it he recalls having his spirits lifted by Dame Vera Lynn, whose songs include We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs Of Dover.

And recalling VE Day on Good Morning Britain, he said: “It was a very important day and everyone concerned was absolutely very pleased that this was the end … the bombing of London, the bombing of other cities … had come to an end.

“It was a very, very happy day.”

His daughter Hannah said he would be marking the day with “quiet celebrations” at home.

At 9pm, the Queen will address the nation in a televised message – the exact moment her father, King George VI, gave a speech over the radio three-quarters of a century earlier.

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